June 1 2010 Iowa Fail

Feb 27, 2012

Darn you, Iowa!

Summary:
Targeted Nebraska City area and forced to make tough executive decision when storms went up equally as far away in opposite directions. Raced after cluster of storms that wound up producing EF-2 tornado but slow moving IA highways hindered efforts. Treated to some nice structure on the back side as a consolation prize. Called chase and headed for home with raging squall line behind us.
Stats:
Tornadoes: 0
Hail: 0.00″
Wind: est 20mph non thunderstorm gust.
Features: mammatus, updraft tower.
IAs added insult to injury: A random rock kicked up by a truck that cracked Skips windshield.
Detailed Account:
I had just returned from the holiday weekend and had not paid attention to the weather. Fellow chaser Skip Talbot called me excited over the latest run of the NAM and pitched the idea of teaming up for a chase. Running low on funds that was the only possible way I was going to chase. The setup held potential but was meager enough to make it a gamble. I got 2 hours of sleep, woke up and met at Skips house at 730am before setting off.
Going over data it appeared initiation would occur somewhere along the river that plagues the border of IA and NE. That is always a tricky situation to anticipate so we chose to target the IA side of Nebraska City. We arrived there with cu going up overhead. We stopped at our favorite Wendys for a lunch as storms fired along an outflow boundary north of the Omaha area. We pondered racing back north for those but when we stepped outside we saw massive cu towers going up to our west.
The debate became to either go for the Omaha stuff which was forecast to become linear quickly, or race back east for the new development and hope it goes tornadic [and also hoping the Omaha stuff doesn’t remain discrete and tornadic.]
We chose to go east. At this point our only road options were a couple of 2 lane county roads that would be littered with slow moving local traffic, but we had no other choice.
The tower ahead begins to grow.
…and grow…
…until finally becoming a mature thunderstorm, the whole process took probably 20 minutes.
I was driving Skips van and was able to navigate around most of the traffic aside from a jerk who sped up and swerved in our way, not sure what his problem was but it was pretty ignorant. The storm had now gone tornado warned and reports of a large tornado were coming in. We were getting closer, but not not close enough.
Once we finally made it close enough to begin picking out features the storm had begun its dying trend. With storms going up all around now it appeared it was a one and done type deal. We chose to keep pace since it was in the general direction towards home. As we got close enough we were at least treated to some nice structure.
Mammatus.
Cool looking updraft tower and flanking line.
The storm weakened with no other promising looking storms in the area. There was a nice looking bow echo to our west but we chose to just head home rather than wait for it. While I was driving a truck passed by in the opposite lane, I then noticed a black mass heading for the truck followed by a loud WHACK sound and a new crack in Skips windshield.
IA had dealt its final blow, and we continued home. The sound the rock made was incredibly loud and in that split second I thought something much worse was happening. It must have been a decent sized rock to do that, and I am thankful the windshield held up otherwise it would have hit me square in the face.
On the way home we were treated to some nice anvil crawler lightning and were back in Chicago by midnight where I was treated again to a 3 hour long round of storms as the same bow echo, now an MCS [mesoscale convective system] tracked south of Chicago kicking up non severe storms ahead of it. They provided a nice lightning display to relax to.
Conclusion:
Missing a tornado always stings, but we gave it our best shot. Earlier in the morning we checked out a new forecast tool, the HRRR model which actually nailed the day perfect but we chose to ignore it. I will have to pay more attention to this model on future chases. The decent structure and local storms eased the pain of missing yet another tornado.
Map:
SPC Storm Reports:

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